Soccer star Emiliano Sala aboard missing plane that vanished off English Channel, officials say

The search for the missing plane carrying an Argentine soccer star who had recently signed a club-record free with an English Premier League professional team was temporarily suspended Tuesday.

Emiliano Sala was en route from Nantes to Wales with two other people aboard when the light aircraft disappeared from radar Monday night off the coast of Guernsey.

The 28-year-old had spent the previous hours saying farewell to teammates at the French city’s soccer team after Cardiff City signed him for a club-record fee last week.

Sala's last post on Instagram was a picture on Monday with Nantes players alongside a message which translates as "the last goodbye."

The search was called off Tuesday for the night after 15 hours. It is expected to resume Wednesday morning.

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“After all this time, the weather’s quite cold, the water is very cold out there … I am not expecting anyone to be alive,” Channel Islands Air Search chief officer John Fitzgerald told the Associated Press. “We just don’t know how it disappeared at the end of yesterday. It just completely vanished.”

Officials said floating objects had been seen in the water, but they were unable to confirm whether they were from the light aircraft.

"If they did land on the water," Guernsey Police said, "the chances of survival are at this stage, unfortunately, slim."

The aircraft had been flying at 5,000 feet when it contacted Jersey air traffic controllers requesting descent, officials said. The plane was heading for Cardiff Airport, officials told BBC.

"We were very shocked upon hearing the news that the plane had gone missing. We expected Emiliano to arrive last night into Cardiff and today was due to be his first day with the team," Cardiff City CEO Ken Choo said in a statement Tuesday.

"We continue to pray for positive news," he added.

Sala made club history over the weekend when he signed a record three-year, $23.2 million deal to go from FC Nantes, who played in French Ligue 1, to Cardiff City.

He was in Cardiff last week to finalize the transfer, which was awaiting international clearance. The Premier League did not respond to questions about whether the transfer had been completed.

"I can't wait to start training, meet my new teammates and get down to work," Sala said in a video posted on the club's website.

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A powerful and direct player, Sala equaled his career-best total of 12 goals — achieved in the past two seasons with Nantes — in 19 league games this season. He is fifth highest scorer in the French league, one behind Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar, who is the world's most expensive player.

"He was a polite, nice and adorable player who was loved by everybody," Nantes president Waldemar Kita told French TV channel CNews.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.